Despite its name, this book by ICB’s own Les Howarth is not a recipe book. It says as much on the back cover: “It is a database of ingredient information that should assist the home or craft brewer in creating their own recipes in order to replicate commercial beers…”
What Les has done here is trawl through all of the recipe books and podcasts you might look to if you want to clone a commercial beer and extracted the ingredient information. He is completely up front about this and lists the source of the ingredient information with every beer listed.
The book begins with an explanation of the format, abbreviations and terminology used, some discussion of recipe design, ingredients, formulas, etc. but this is only about 20 pages of the 362 page book. The rest is raw ingredient data, organised by country and brewery.
He does not discuss beer styles or give opinions on the beers or breweries mentioned. He does not discuss brewing techniques or even tell you what yeast you should be using for a given beer. What he does give is the Malts and Hops used, along with the ABV, OG, Bittering in IBU and colour in ECB.
For example, here is what he has to say about Hobgoblin Ale, from Wychwood:
OG: 1.053. Malt Bill: 98% Maris Otter or Pipkin Pale Malt, 2% Black/Chocolate malt. Hops: Progress. Late Hops: Styrian Goldings. IBU 28-35. ECB: 41-5. Source: RP.
OG: 1.059 Malt Bill: Maris Otter pale malt, Crystal malt, Chocolate malt, Patent black malt. Hops: Progress, Late Hops: Styrian Goldings. Source: BC.
A flick to the front of the book tells me that RP means the information was condensed by Les from several editions of Roger Protz’s Real Ale Almanac, while the second ingredient list, marked BC, came from Beer Captured.
The detail available can vary, depending on the original source, so in some cases you will have to decide for yourself what kind of proportions the various malts and hops should be used in, or indeed what OG you should be shooting for to get the required ABV.
For some of the better known beers, like Hobgoblin above, there is more than one list of ingredients, as more than one book lists a clone for the beer. This can be disconcerting as you can end up with two quite different interpretations of how the same beer can be created. However, as any clone recipe can only ever be a starting point for you to brew the beer you want, having more than one opinion can only give you more food for thought.
You will have to use your own brewing know-how to decide on the brewing salts, mash temperature, boil duration, the appropriate yeast and the fermentation temperature, but I think that that would be the case in any event, as only you know the quirks of your system and water chemistry.
A wonderful feature of this book is that, not only are the beers listed by country and brewery in the contents section, but the ingredients have their own index, so if you have some brown malt you want to use, or you just have to use vanilla in something, you can find out what commercial beers use the ingredient in question and in what kind of proportions.
As you may have ascertained at this point, this is not a beginner’s book. You need to know the basics of brewing. If the above list of ingredients and values does not mean a lot to you, this book will be of little use right now, but if you go through the articles in the ICB knowledge base and get a few brews under your belt, it will start to look a lot more useful.
If you are comfortable with the terminology used and see a recipe in the two lines of data above, you may well find this book a very useful addition to your library. I know I will be referring to it time and again.